Amanda Maxwell, Latin America Advocate, Washington, DC
Endesa and Colbún, the corporate owners of HydroAysén are revisiting the issue of economic feasibility. Last week, Electrobas, a Brazilian state owned power company expressed interest in becoming a partner in the Patagonia mega-project which seeks to build five dams on two of the region’s major rivers. While sources at Colbún have dismissed the idea of a new project partner, it is undeniable that the extra investment of capitol would lessen the economic burden of this increasingly expensive energy project (La Tercera 5/3/2012). This economic feasibility factor is just one of the many questions that still plagues this project. While proponents celebrated the recent “green light” granted by the Supreme Court to move forward with HydroAysén, opponents rest assured that there are still a plethora of red lights that will stall HydroAysén’s progress. The project’s mantra of “development at any cost” is an unsustainable notion that has already been torn apart via multiple legal battles paid for by Endesa and Colbún. Already the project has a more than 70% disproval rate amongst the Chilean people. (La Tercera 4/29/2012).
Just two months after the release of Chile’s National Energy Strategy (NES), concrete plans are already being released for implementation measures. President Piñera stated that in the coming weeks, more than 100 measures will be taken which correspond to the NES. The measures will focus on long term efforts though measures to expedite the implementation of a transmission line from Patagonia will continue to be explored in the coming weeks (Diario Financierio 5/2/2012). One measure that is being taken to is a new initiative to make the energy sector more competitive. According to the Vice Minister of Energy, “We are working on the creation of tenders that will be carried out from the first half of 2013. The idea is to make technologies compete for energy blocks which have been previously defined through studies”. A bill proposing the idea of tenders is currently awaiting approval by the national Congress, but hopes are high that it will be passed before the year is out (Business News Americas, 4/26/2012, Subscription Only).
In Italy, a delegation of environmental leaders gathered to protest ENEL, the transnational Italian and Spanish company involved in the HydroAysén mega project. A group of environmental leaders representing Patagonia without Dams among other groups aimed to expose not only the shortcomings of HydroAysén, but also other unsustainable projects including those in Guatemala, Colombia, Albania, Slovakia, and Romania. Patricio Rodrigo, spokesperson of the Patagonia Defense Council cited these projects as guilty of operating under unsustainable and completely outdated technologies (Radio.uchile.cl 5/2/2012).
The Chilean Supreme Court annulled the decision approving environmental permits for the El Morro mining projects run by Canadian mining company Goldcorp, a major victory for environmentalists and local indigenous groups. The decision effectively postpones mining activity for 18 months due to the fact that the company’s original Environmental Impact Assessment did not consult with local communities over the installation of a mining project in their ancestral territories. In order to resume work Goldcorp must comply with the Indian Act and Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization of Indigenous and Tribal People. (Diario Financiero 5/2/2012).
A recent annual report released by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) found that while Costa Rica’s electricity prices are cheaper than other Central American Countries, they are still above South America’s energy prices. The report explains the discrepancy by referring to the energy generation structure and market size in Costa Rica. Although large hydro has lost some ground over the past two decades, it still represents 50% of installed capacity in Latin America. Meanwhile sustainable renewable sources are still limited within the region. Costa Rica, for example, generates 78% of its energy comes from large hydroelectric plants, and only 17% is generated with renewable alternatives to water. There is however, a movement in wind generation, as Costa Rica has installed 119 megawatts of wind energy in the past two years ( El Financiero 4/3/2012).
The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) has moved forward with its bid for the Hydroelectric Project Diquís despite a pending consultation with the region’s local indigenous populations. The project would be located in the district of Buenos Aires, Perez Zeledon and Osa with a projected capacity of 631 megawatts to supply a large portion of the country’s energy demand. One of the obstacles to the project however is its use of indigenous territory. The project may only proceed with the approval of local residents according Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization. Further difficulty lies in discord not only between indigenous people and the ICE but disagreement within the five different indigenous groups involved in the large territory in question (La Nación 5/3/2012).
Josefina Vazquez Mota, President of Mexico’s National Action Party (PAN), emphasized the importance of environmental compliance and sustainable development in a recent press conference with environmental groups. She vowed to undertake a new review of Cabo Pulmo development saying there was the possibility to “scrap the project if further anomalies were detected in the environmental impact statement” (Elgolfo.info 4/24/2012).
Delegates from over twenty countries met in Honduras this week to discuss climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean. The dialogue was intended as a platform to create a better action plan amongst Latin American and Caribbean countries in the face of climate change (Spanish People Daily 5/3/2012). José Luis Maccarone, Coordinator of the International Affairs Unit of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina stated, ““This is unique opportunity to interact, and hopefully we get through this regional program to further strengthen these processes and effectively create a platform for exchange”. The dialogue also resulted in an important conversation regarding the financing of climate change development (TicoVisión 5/3/2012).
Composed by Amanda Wheat
Note: The linked articles and excerpts in this post are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
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